UC LEADS Scholars

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Undergraduate student researchers Isaac Diaz (Spokoyny group) and Jenna Molas (Kaner group) have been accepted into the prestigious UC LEADS program. 

The University of California Leadership Excellence through Advanced DegreeS (UC LEADS) program is one of the most prestigious fellowships awarded by the University of California system. Each year this honor is awarded to up to nine UCLA upper-division undergraduate students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The program provides the students with educational experiences that prepare them to assume positions of leadership in academia, industry, government, and public service. UC LEADS scholars work closely with faculty mentors and graduate students on research projects for a two-year period and participate in activities, events and workshops designed to help prepare them for graduate education. Professor Craig Merlic is the faculty advisor for the program.

As UC LEADS Scholars from spring 2018 through spring 2020, Diaz and Molas will each receive a research stipend both during the academic year and in the summer. In addition, they will receive funding for travel to scientific conferences and professional meetings and participate in weekly UC LEADS Journal Club and a leadership seminar.

Isaac DiazAbout Isaac Diaz 

Diaz is a rising junior chemistry/ materials science major with an organic materials concentration. He is an active member of the UCLA Triathlon Club, a member of PEERS, and a CAMP scholar for winter and spring quarter. After graduation, Diaz plans to pursue a Ph.D. in materials chemistry. “The idea that I am able to probe problems that our society has yet to solve excites me to my core and inspires me to become a better researcher” Diaz said. “I hope to have a large impact on the scientific world. I would like to thank Professor Spokoyny for giving me the opportunity to be in his lab and my mentor Rafal Dziedzic for his patience and willingness in teaching me the vast knowledge needed to perform inorganic chemistry research.” 

Diaz is an undergraduate researcher in the laboratory of UCLA chemistry professor Alex Spokoyny. His research is involved in synthesizing a Boron Ionic Liquid Electrolyte able to withstand the extremities of space. Using this BCIL the Spokoyny group performs electrodeposition in order to develop a silver film. When the silver film is deposited it reflects infrared radiation from the device, such as a spacecraft, which would effectively perform radiative heating. By turning off the voltage, researchers are able to dissolve the silver film allowing for infrared radiation to escape from the device, and thus performs radiative cooling. This technology is a promising candidate for next generation spacecraft thermal control. 

Molas%2C%20Jenna 150About Jenna Molas

A rising junior chemistry major, Molas has long been interested in chemistry and its wide range of applications as the central science. She is a Co-President of One-to-One, a student organization that tutors high school students from the Hawthorne Math and Science Academy to help them prepare for the SAT, and she is a member of the Regents Scholar Society. After graduation, Molas plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry and embark on a career in academic research.  “I am excited about and grateful for the opportunity to apply what I have learned to solve problems and grow as a critical thinker and an independent researcher” Molas said. 

Molas joined the group of UCLA chemistry professor Richard Kaner in Fall 2017 as a Sustainable LA: Grand Challenges Undergraduate Research Scholar.  During the 2017-2018 academic year, she investigated the effects of adding antibacterial nitrogen compounds into the active layer of nanofiltration membranes for water desalination. She will soon be involved in creating nanofiltration membranes using a novel technique developed in the Kaner laboratory. This methodology takes advantage of epoxide reactions and enables a level of optimization not possible with conventional methods.